Not too long ago, seeing a girl in a park or at a spot was like some kind of big-foot sighting. Nowadays there is a full generation of women skateboarders absolutely smashing it, claiming it and taking skateboarding as a whole forward.
We caught up with Amy Ram, Shani Bru and Helena Long at the House of Vans in Berlin, where they were holding a Women’s Skate Workshop, giving out and setting up boards, screening decks, and encouraging potential skaters to get out there and do it for themselves.
Interview by Adrian Day
So how long have each of you been skating?
Amy: A long time [laughs].
Helena: I think like 13 years or something.
Shani: Five and a half.
Helena: Is that it?! Woah!
And when you started did you have girls that you were skating with or were you just skating with the guys?
All: Just with the guys.
Amy: Yeah I was the only girl I ever saw skating, ever.
Helena: Yeah it took me a whole year to find another girl skater in London. I’m from the south east and I found a girl skating in north west London.
So now girls get to skate together, does it feel like you’ve got your own solid scene. I mean do you mostly skate with girls or is it just the same as it’s ever been?
Amy: We mix it up. We go on trips with the guys and we go on trips with the girls, and they’re very different. They’ve got their pluses and minuses.
Helena: Yeah, and then the commonality is skateboarding with everyone, so it all kinda works out pretty much. Yeah so it feels the same. I think the girl skating is definitely a lot more fresh.
Amy Ram – Pivot Fakie / Photo – Frederico Casella
Did you have female skate influences coming up?
Shani: Oh yeah. Like Lizzy, she’s a good [role] model. I was influenced by a lot of men because I was skating with guys, like local guys, my boyfriend was skating…
Like I heard Elissa Steamer once say that she didn’t look up to the girls, she was looking up to Ray Barbee…
Helena: Yeah it’s true, it’s the same. Just my friends, they were all guys. So mostly that, but then I remember Marisa Del Santos’ part from Zero and I was like wooagh! Her and Elissa, that was when I was really stoked to see female skating. But mostly just friends who were all guys.
Is it the same now? You look at whoever is skating or do you have your favourite ladies that you kind of maybe aspire to?
Amy: Yeah it’s easy to go on the internet and find skaters male or female to get inspiration from, whereas I guess when we were growing up we were just…
Helena: Yeah there wasn’t so much social media back then, so you get a DVD from the shop or read a magazine and you watched it that way, or you looked at a sick photo. But now I don’t think I have a particular favourite, there’s just crazy clips coming out here, there, everywhere.
So now there’s a huge boom in women’s skating. Did you ever expect that? Or did you never really care and now you’ve arrived this is just the way it is?
Amy: I never really thought about it. It was quite naive to think that there were other girl skaters. So I think, I always knew that I was doing something that is very male dominated, but it never crossed my mind that it was a problem. And no guy skaters ever mentioned anything. Never had any trouble apart with security guards kicking us out of a spot! So I’m glad that there’s more women discovering it, because of social media or these events [House of Vans], and they’ve got more confidence to give it a go.
Shani Bru – Boneless / Photo – Acosta
With the boom of women’s skateboarding it’s kinda feeding back to you guys because you’re at the top of it. And then you’re feeding it back so the numbers keep growing and…
Helena: There’s a huge gap
Helena: For those who’ve been doing it a while – unless they’ve been doing it for 2 to 3 years…
The gap is real.
Amy: The gap is so real.
Helena: I think in 2018/19 it’s what’s happening, everything is being a bit more exposed so, and the whole equality in jobs, in the workplace, everything is a bit more exposed so I feel like a lot of girls, women maybe feel they’ll do it all. Which they can.
What do you feel is the importance and benefit of spaces like this for girls?
Helena: I think it’s just an opportunity for those who don’t have confidence to go straight into a skatepark, or go straight by themselves and jump in with a bunch of guys. It’s a good start.
Shani: It’s not the real life skating. It’s a good start and then they have to try it by themselves.
It’s a good introduction.
Amy: It gives you the confidence to take it elsewhere.
It makes it a lot easier than having to walk into a skatepark full of dudes –
Helena: Yeah getting serious.
Amy: Yeah but we had to do it! They have the capability of doing it, and they’ve just been given this good opportunity by a brand that is willing to invest.
It’s kinda like a foot up.
Helena: I don’t think there’s many girls or women like us that kinda just necessarily dive in. It is intimidating.
Well I don’t think that many humans dive straight into skateboarding!
Helena: ‘Oh you wanna fall on concrete or drop in on a 15ft vert ramp!’ I’m not sure.
Amy: It would be good to talk to the girls here about the commitment levels that you need to progress and how many hours it takes to get good. You know like that aspect of skating. They watch us skate and think, ‘oh I think I could do that’. But no, this takes like 10 years of complete dedication, quitting everything for one thing. It takes over your life.
Helena Long – Smith Grind / Photo – Frederico Casella
How do you feel the general public reacts?
Helena: I think it’s changed massively. I remember street skating and people just getting pissed off at you, and now they’ve seen it somewhere on a billboard for an advert for a Samsung phone or something, they’ll be like “oh, that’s cool!” And then you get a weird head nod. It’s strange. It’s a mixed bag I think, but not too long ago it felt a bit more hostile than it is now. But it depends on how much of a dickhead they’re being.
Have you guys ever had to deal with dickhead skaters?
Helena: There’s always some that say, “can you kickflip?” Yeah I can. I could show you or I could just not. But they’re usually ones that haven’t been skating long themselves and they’ve got that kind of competitive streak where they’re actually intimidated by the fact that we’re skating, maybe better than they are, or potentially better than them. But not really, no. If they’re dickhead skaters they don’t usually have many friends in the community anyway.
Skateboarding will always kind of regulate itself with regard to that kinda shit, someone will tell them off.
Helena: It builds character for sure. I definitely took the piss out of my friends, and they took the piss out of me too. I think that’s a good thing.
Yeah skaters are so harsh to each other, it’s a tough crowd!
Amy: We’ve got like full support from the Vans boys, which is really important, they’re really hyped on us. Everyone just skates very differently so we can do tricks that they can’t do and we obviously can’t do tricks that they can do. But that’s what skateboarding is, everyone is so different in their style and their tricks. When we were skating yesterday, the boys were hyped on us, we were hyped on the boys, all different types of skating and abilities. It’s pretty sick.
Girls Skate Camp / Photo – Mike Palmer